Panflute Kite (Revisited)
The Panflute is a soft kite (no sticks) made of 7 connected windsock like
tubes or cells. It has a good wind range and flies at an angle of 30-40
degrees. It flys with a side-to-side sway, or wobble, making this kite very
pleasent to look at in the sky, particularly with a long ribbon tail, or
The kite is a great for families. It can be stuffed in a bag, and flown on the
beach. Bury the handle in the sand and leave flying to mark your picnic spot.
However you need reasonable sewing skills and access to some light weight
fabric. The soft un-sealed ripstop in curtain shops is fine for this kite,
though not for any other kite I know of.
Back to Anthony's Kite Workshop
Read other peoples responses, results and photos
Paul and his Fire Fighters
(A panflute story)
Templates and Pieces
Start by making the two templates (or measure directly) from cardboard, to cut
seven (7) of each type panel ('B' for the bottom, 'T' for the top panel). For
aesthetics try alternating contrasting colours for each cell or create a
rainbow color sequence.
The kite is very forgiving, so while a hem allowance should be added, it isn't
Similarly you do not need to use exactly the measurements suggested on the
template. A bit shorter or longer is fine, same with the widths. As long as
the base width, at the lower end of bottom templete 'B', (7 cm in this diagram)
is roughly doubled (14 cm), and quadrupled (28 cm), everything will work out.
For example:- My giant panflute (see photo top right) is 2.5 metres long and the
base width is 16 cm (making the top measurment of piece 'T' 64cm wide. These
were caluclated to fit the ripstop pieces I had available.
Sewing Pieces Together
On all the pieces hem the top and bottom edges. Then starting with one 'B' and
one 'T' piece, for an outside tube, and pin them together along one side edge
with the outside faces facing each other, IE: top and bottom edge hems on the
outside, inside sides on the outside.
At this point also sew some loops at both ends of seam. These will be used to
attach one end of the bridle line and tail lines of the finished kite. The
bridle loop should be directed to the side, as that is where the pull comes
from, while the tail or drogue loops should face downward.
In larger versions you may like to add a side pannel rather than a bridle
loop. The pannel is made by layering and sewing together the material to make
it thicker and stiffer, particularly as you get to the corner with the bridle
point. Its job is not to add surface area to the kite, but to spread the
forces from the bridle line accross the kite as evenly as posible, and prevent
kite from folding up due to those forces. It is NOT needed for a normal sized
Preprepare the side pannel first, and hen both outside edges. Position it
between the top and bottom pieces, before sewing through all three pannels.
You may also like to do a second run of the hem though the machine with a
zig-zag stitch down the edge of the hems to prevent fraying. Isn't nessary,
but will make the kite more robust and last longer. I didn't do this with my
first panflute and it is now (5 years later) showing problems. Still flys
great though (see photo left).
Fold the first two pieces along the seam, so the outside of the pieces is now
outside. Taking another pair of top and bottom pieces sandwich the first two
pieces already sewn together between these. Top piece over top piece, so the
two outsides face each other. Simularly with the bottom. If you remember the
outside sides face each other when sewing you should never get this wrong.
Pin them carefully together and sew through all four pieces, to finish the
edge tube and start the next tube. This can be tricky so take your time and
do it right. Run the edge through the sewing machine again using a zigzag or
blanket stitch to stop the material fraying.
Repeat with another pair of top and bottom panels, twice more, to complete
three tubes and one side of the middle tube of the kite.
Start the process again but starting from the other end of the kite, with the
opposite edge of the pieces. When you run out of pieces you should have
two halfs of the kite completed with only the last seam of the middle tube to
This last seam is the most difficult as you have to roll both groups of panels
into the middle cell you are closing off. That is the whole kite is rolled up,
inside the middle tube, which is then completed, inside out.
Take your time and figure it out. and remember, inside faces of the top and
bottom panel will face outside. Use lots of things like, pins, bulldog clips,
clothes pegs, or anything else, to hold the two rolls of material tightly
together in a roll, and help you position the four panels for the final seam.
Only when you are sure you have it right, and you will not sew though more
than the four panels you intend, should you proceed with the final seam.
When the final seam has been sewn, pull the kite out of the middle tube to form
its normal working shape, removing any pegs, pins, or buldog clips you used to
hold the rolls of fabric together.
Bridles and Tails
To the loops you sewed at the front (upper) corners of the kite tie a bridle
line approximately 2 metres long (longer the better, a cheap braided nylon
builders line is good for this). Then tie a loop in the middle of this line to
attach the flying line. Repeat for the lower corners using a much shorter
length (about a metre), so you can attach a tail to the middle.
The plan calls for a drogue, to steady the kite. However I found a 5 metre
ribbon tail, or tube will work much better, (and look good too). You can also
just attach two seperate tails directly to the two lower corners instead.
Almost anything will do as its job is only to remove some of the side-side
'wobble', of the kite. It should be a good length. If a drouge is used put it
at the end of at least a 2 meter line, so it is some distance from the kite.
Now go fly it :-)
Large Panflute Notes
When I scaled up this kite I found the kite tended to collapse (folding in
half) as too much air was lost through the ends of the tubes. To stop this I
sewed about 5cm up the middle of the end of each tube, dividing the end of the
tube into two (see photo right). This restricted the airflow exiting the tube,
increasing the internal pressure and making the kite more ridged, and less
prone to collapse.
Andrew Kilborn had some great success, in joining the leading edge of
the top cell panels to its neighbours. See his email in responses
for a photo. This means that when one cell
inflates, it will open the neighbouring cell a little allowing the wind to
inflate the next cell as well.
In my own giant panflute I also added some triangular side flaps using a
thicker red ripstop (see photo), and layered even more pieces (with double
sided tape and sewing) at the corner where the bridle lines are attached.
Though this should not be required, I believe it helps to spread the load with
the extra thickness also helping to stop the folding collapse of the kite.
Also, though I have not performed any real test, I believe it would make the
kite fly at a higher angle. Looks good in any case. Aside: don't make them
Due to its large size, a extra line is sewn on top of the hem accross leading
edge of all the the 'B' pieces, from one side to the other. This is best done
while the kite is being built, using a lines from each corner, sewn along
the leading hem as the pieces are joined together, and overlaping on the
center panel. The line prevents the huge pull of the kite ripping out the
kite seams, especially in the leading edge corners. This isn't a problem with
a normal sized panflute, but a must, in a larger kite like this one.
Also I recommend on a big kite like this, that the bridle line is completely
detachable, so that it can be easily replaced. I have found that in any sort
of kite to kite conflict, it is the bridle lines that take most of the wear
and tear. In the three years my giant panflute has now been flying I have
replaced its bridle lines 4 times!
My large panflute can fly from a very light breeze (with some tails removed)
to near gale force winds that few kites can fly in. One weekend it flew in such
strong winds that eventually caused the bridle lines of the kite to give
causing the kite to fly off into the bay! Lucky for me a friendly jet skier
went out to pick up the soggy mass for me.
On other occasion with light winds all the other kites dropped out of the sky
as the wind died, with the panflute the last to do so. I did remove the
larger center tail, leaving the two smaller side tails to save weight.
To finish with the photo to the right is another large panflute created by
Phil Holoway, a local kite club member. The tail on the panflute is very
long, and shows clearing the huge "swish" the kite gives its tail. Also note
that the kite was made with 8 cells instead of 7, resulting in the kite being
much wider. Any more than 8 cells, I would then recomend the addition of a
extra central fin, turning the kite into a double arched panflute.
Once you have made one of these kites, they become easy to make, and fly.
They make great Christmas presents, and you can make them in what ever color
the reciever likes. You could even sew their name down the lower center
(middle) panel (applique) before sewing the peices together to make it very
a very personal gift.
The individual panels also do not have to be the same color. You can sew
different colored peices together before cuting out the panels themselves to
make the kite look even more interesting. See photo on Phil Holloway's
panflute, above right.
The kites also like to swish tails, so you can add interesting and fancy tails
to the kite. My big one isn't great, but the long tapering blue tails (12
meters long for the middle one) with white inflated balls inserted long them
(called "space balls" tail) makes the kite very interesting to look at in the
sky. I get lots of comments about it.
There has been some discussion about inflation problems, generally resulting
in the kite folding up lebgthwise. A simple solution for an existing panflute
is as what I did for my large one, sew the ends of the tubes partly closed to
increase the presure inside. Another idea is to make only the tubes along the
edges smaller at the back, or taper completely closed.
Responses, Results & Photos
For more information about peoples experience with building a kite with this
plan, and what results they have achieved, I suggest you look at the various
Responses I have recieved
. Also on that page I
have included photos of other panflutes I have found on the net.
Many thanks to all who have replied.
If like this plan, and/or build one, please mail and let me know what you
think. Including any ideas, suggestions or other experiences. That way I can
add them to the above so others can read and benifit from your results. :-)
Photos especially welcome!
Sources and References
This plan was developed from a internet plan
(offline, link from the wayback machine) by Buck Childers.
This in turn was based on a short article in the Dutch magazine _De Zette
Vieger_, Nbr.6 which references another kite newsletter by Piet van
Buck Childers plan was revised for the Queensland Kite Flyers Society's
Newsletter for which I was the editor, and later became this plan. Since then
it has grown, becomming more detailed and more than three times larger with
more detailed construction notes and options.
More information and discussion on panflute kites and be found at
KiteBuilder.com - My First Panflute
. This discussion also includes a lot
of great photos on the second page, and I don't mean the photo of the girls